KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Neymar has been advised by old Brazilian World Cup hero Cafu to stay with Barcelona and work towards superceding club-mate Lionel Messi as the world’s top player.

Barcelona’s Champions Cup-signing from Santos three years ago appears to have been able to shrug off the legal and tax controversies surrounding his move and live up to his potential.

The two faces of Neymar - for country and club

This promises to be  busy year. Not only are Barcelona seeking to become the first club to retain the UEFA Champions League trophy but Brazil want him go play for them in both the Copa America Centenario in the United States in June and then lead their pursuit of a first Olympic Games gold in Rio de Janeiro in August.

Barcelona sources have indicated that they would oppose his appearance in the Copa Centenario but accept his Olympic absence.


This may be subject to delicate negotiation since the Copa Centenario is an approved player-release tournament under world federation regulations while the Olympic Games is not.

In the meantime Cafu, speaking to about the nominees for the Laureus World Sports Awards, has urged Neymar to put out of his head speculation about a world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City.

Cafu – the only player to have appeared in three World Cup finals, winning two in 1994 and 2002 – said: “I hope he can continue at Barcelona. Barcelona is a team that supports him, it’s a team that provides him with structure to help him continue to shine.”

Neymar was beaten by Messi for the 2015 FIFA World Player award but Cafu believes the accolade will be his fellow countryman’s one day.

Cafu added: “Neymar’s moment will happen, next time, for sure, Neymar will increase his advantage over the others. Each player becomes the best in the world in their own time. He is very important for world football today, the way football should be played, content and happy. He could become one of the world’s best football idols.

“If he [plays at the Olympics] we will be able to win . . . We have never won an Olympic Games and for that reason it will be important for us. Independent of whether we won or lost the 2014 World Cup, the Olympics will be important for us to create more credibility.”

Painful memory

Cafu does not believe even Olympic gold would remove away the pain of the infamous 7-1 defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup semi-final which Neymar missed through injury.

Cafu said: “That will stay for the rest of our lives, whenever anyone talks about Brazil they always mention the World Cup and being beaten by Germany. There is no way of escaping that.”

Messi has been nominated for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award along with Usain Bolt, Stephen Curry, Novak Djokovic, Lewis Hamilton and Jordan Spieth. Barcelona have been nominated for the World Team of the Year Award. Winners will be announced in Berlin on April 18.